A few weeks ago, I wrote here about pandemic pods, and how some more affluent families are banding together to form pods to augment their children’s learning during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I suggested that school districts should consider forming their own pods. While there have been some limited attempts in Denver Public Schools and Aurora Public Schools to level the playing field with augmented learning opportunities for lower-income families, those efforts have fallen short of meeting overwhelming community demand.
For that reason, African Leadership Group decided recently to launch a free, pilot pandemic pod out of our Aurora offices Monday-Thursday, from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m We have also started a no-cost after-school tutoring program three days each week.
Both programs are scheduled to run through December. We will use this time to assess our practices and to monitor what school districts are doing. We will decide later this fall whether the program will continue into the spring.
We are calling our pandemic pod Online School Support. Because of social distancing requirements, we can accommodate only 12 children, and all our spaces are currently full, and our waiting list is growing. That could change over time.
Here is how the program works, and its schedule.
Elementary, middle, and high school students arrive between 7:15 and 7:30 a.m. at our offices in Aurora. Every student is screened with a temperature check, and must be wearing a mask to enter the building. Masks must be worn at all times, except during meals.
Between 7:30 and 10:30 a.m., students work at computers in the classroom space, monitored by an ALG program coordinator. One child sits at each long table, socially distanced from one another. We will provide 10-minute breaks throughout the day, during which students can get up, move around, stretch, and have a snack and water, which we provide free of charge.
Because students come from different schools and even different school districts, they will all be attending different virtual classes. To avoid disruptions, all students must wear headphones while working in live classes. We ask that whenever possible, students bring their own computers and headphones or earbuds. We recognize that not all families can afford this equipment, so we will provide it when necessary.
At 11 a.m. we serve a healthy lunch at no cost. On some days, we prepare sack lunches, on other days, restaurant food is delivered. After they eat, students can go outside to the ALG playground for recess. They can swing, run around, and expend pent-up energy.
ALG also offers classrooms filled with toys, books, and other materials that can be used when weather makes indoor recess necessary.
After lunch, students resume their online learning. If their live classes are not in session, they can sit and work on assignments. Online school ends at 3:15 and parents can pick up their children between 3:15 and 3:30.
The ALG program coordinator monitors each student’s start time, break time, lunch time, and end time.
The tutoring program begins at 4:30 p.m. and runs until 6:30 on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. Three teachers oversee the program, two who are local and attend in person, and one who beams in via Zoom from Florida. Students from grades 1 through 12 are welcome to participate. The program’s capacity is 20 students.
These programs are another example of ALG being responsive to needs in the community as they arise. As you all know, we already run a wide variety of programs. Running a pandemic pod school and tutoring program strains our resources, but we also believe we will be able to secure additional funding to keep them going for as long a demonstrated need exists.